So you’ve seen Moraine Lake… Now what?
Almost everyone that visits Banff and the Rockies will end up visiting Moraine Lake. Ok fair enough, it’s kind of tough to get near it in Winter (unless you XC ski), but if you come between late May and the October/November time, this is going to be first on your list. It’s THE postcard photo you get to take home and brag about. (Anyone fancy a swim? :D)
Ok let’s fast forward to your trip. You’ve got up to Moraine and you’ve just taken your photo… now what?.. Back down to Lake Louise again like the other tourists? Not so fast!
If you’re willing to work a little for a view, then there are heaps of other things to see in the area. Some are suitable for all abilities, some are seriously hard work, and some… well let’s just say you might want to pack some spare underwear. There’s something for everyone, and if you’re only here once you really owe it to yourself to explore the area a little more before you leave.
Here are our 5 favourite hikes at Moraine Lake. Let’s start with the easiest first:
Aside from the insane views and the beautiful lakes, one thing that the Rockies are famous for are its Larch Pine trees. Larches are a special pine tree that turn bright yellow/orange in Autumn, and every year people come from all around the world to witness it. Imagine a forest of bright yellow Christmas trees and you’ll understand why this is so special!
What does this have to do with Moraine Lake? Well, normally Larches are quite high up and take a lot of hiking to reach. Not this one! The Larch Valley hike is one of the few places where they’re accessible to virtually everybody, regardless of your fitness. Note – the window for seeing the leaves turn is usually about 2 or 3 weeks in Mid/late September, and this hike gets CRAZY during that time!
The hike starts at the base of Moraine Lake. It’s about 45 minutes if you’re going at a good pace, and it’s pretty steep switchbacks from start to finish. Totally worth it though and one of the easier hikes you’ll find in Banff. For more information, check out our post on the best places to see fall colours in Banff.
2. Consolation Lakes
This hike also starts from the bottom of Moraine Lake. Follow the path up to the rockpile, but instead of going all the way up the steps, continue on into the valley beyond. This is a super easy hike with only 60m elevation gain and only 6km round trip.
The hike winds through the forest, following a glacial fed stream that eventually leads to a large boulder field and a beautiful crystal clear lake. If you’ve seen our photo and think the water might be warm? Think again.. this stuff is almost freezing year round!
This hike is typically covered in snow well into June (Click the link to see how hard it can be with snow!), so either pack snowshoes, or wait until a little later in the season (August/September).
Grizzly bears are known to frequent the Moraine Lake area, so often this hike (and the Larch Valley hike) require people to hike in groups of 4 or more. Something to bear in mind (no pun intended) if you’re travelling to the area alone.
3. Sentinel Pass
Sentinel Pass is a continuation of the Larch Valley hike, and will take you higher above for incredible views of the larches and epic views of the Valley of the Ten peaks (732m elevation). It’s a 12km hike (round trip), and relatively easy after you’ve reached Larch Valley.
If you’re looking to do a longer hike but aren’t up for anything too steep or too scary, this one would be a great one to start with.
4. Tower of Babel
This is probably the most unique view of Moraine Lake, but it’s going to take some effort to get there! This is a 2 hour scramble (one way) that starts right at the base of Moraine Lake, heading straight up a scree gulley at an almost 45% angle. Not for the faint of heart, but a huge achievement if you can make it!
No climbing experience or equipment required (apart from a helmet!), but this is a scramble.. meaning there are times where a fall would lead to serious injury or worse. Having said that, we’ve seen people in jeans and converses doing it just fine. Again, not something to do in Winter or Spring as snow makes it significantly harder/impossible.
If you make it all the way, make sure you check out the tv and couch that past visitors have built out of loose rocks!
5. Eiffel Peak
This one is a monster, and one of the few mountains in the area above 10,000ft. If you’re going to try it, make sure you set off early and leave yourself plenty of time to get up there! – 6 hour and 11km round trip.
This is another mountain that’ll give you a birds eye view of Moraine Lake, and it’s yet another hike that begins in Larch Valley. Head through Larch Valley, cross the mini stream, and start to scramble up the rockfield at the base. Check here for some more solid hiking instructions!
For someone that grew up at sea level, the altitude on this one is pretty dizzying, and you’ll want to pack a helmet here too. This is a great one if you’re fit and are really looking to challenge yourself. It’s also one of the biggest mountains that you can get up in the area without any mountaineering experience, although it’s definitely a scramble towards the top.
The views at the top are out of this world, and it’s even more rewarding when you’ve worked that hard for it.
6. Mount Temple – Bonus
This is the tallest mountain in the area (above 11,000 ft), and a seriously challenging scramble. It has a very narrow window each year for completion, as the snow is very slow to melt. The views are epic and you’ll get a 360 view of the entire valley. We haven’t been up there yet, but it’s a pilgrimage all hikers and climbers in the area must eventually take! If you’re serious about climbing and hiking, this one has to go on the bucket list. (Note – Temple is only a bonus hike on this list because we haven’t been up there and can’t give it a proper review yet. You can guarantee we’ll find our way up eventually though!)
So now you know! There are tons of great hikes that start at Moraine Lake (and these are just 6!), so there’s no excuse for leaving without having done one! If hiking isn’t your thing then why not check out our 100 things to do in Banff post instead!
Let us know how you get on, and if you have any other questions feel free to drop us an email or leave a comment!